he Consequences of Germany’s Mixed Electoral System

Bernard Owen

Amanda Taub (« Why Democracy Feels Like a Dangerous Game  » posted below) asks the wrong questions about German democracy.  The enquiry is welcome but our approach is different than hers.

I have been working on that question for years as it is the  subject of my Ph.D. degree thesis, which I obtained from Panthéon Sorbonne University.

 

Democracies do not just happen.  There are many elements to consider and, most importantly, the electoral ssystem which will decide whether the party that wins the election obtainsamajority of the seats in Parliament.

What surprised us is that the issue of electoral systems is never mentioned in the article, and, in particular, the mixed system that Germany uses to elect the Bundestag.

We usually write on politics for our French readers.  In professor Owen’s November 2013 article,  « Allemagne : que doit-on retenir en 2013 à partir des élections de 2009 et les autres ? »  he predicted the present difficulties of Chancellor Merkel in forming a government.

But we have also English-speaking readers. We have written a book about electoral systems that was published by Palgrave MacMillan.  It is entitled « Proportional Western Europe: The Failiure of Governance. »

In that « …Failure of Government », We explain the essential role of electoral systems in the formation of governments. We analyze them in a comparative manner and in their historical context.  It includes the French Fourth Republic, notoriously unstable, and the tragic German Weimar Republic.

In 19932 the use of different types of proportional represenation was understandable as little was known as to their effects.  But in 2017, 85 years after Hitler’s election Europeans, but not only, should try to understand the workings of proportional Representation.  Ferdinand A. Hermens, a German profesor  at Cologne University, who fled the Nazi takeover understood right away and wrote about the subject in America.

New York Times

Why Democracy Feels Like a Dangerous Game

The Interpreter

By AMANDA TAUB DEC. 1, 2017

For the past 18 months, political analysts have issued dire warnings about the likelihood that far-right parties could gain power and influence in elections. Then, when the parties merely broke historical records, rather than winning control of their government, those same analysts would breathe a sigh of relief.

But that repeated dance may have led us to overlook another, more subtle but possibly more systemic risk, present even if the far right is only a minority. The problem is that far-right parties may win seats in elections, but they end up having little power because mainstream parties shut them out. This, in turn, angers their supporters, fueling complaints that the system is rigged.

And that worry seems pressing in light of the struggle by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany to build a workable coalition government after her party again failed to win a majority.

Ms. Merkel is facing a daunting choice. She can continue her efforts to create a coalition, even though all potential parties have so far been unwilling. If those attempts fail, Ms. Merkel has signaled that she would prefer new elections over her other option of forming a minority government.

Stated another way, she must decide whether to rely on voters or on institutions.

Those are the two most fundamental building blocks of democracy. But in Germany, as in much of the rest of the West right now, both seem increasingly unreliable.

The result is that democracy now feels like a dangerous game. And even Ms. Merkel, arguably the Western leader who plays it best, has not figured out how to win.

Democracy … Except Some Votes Don’t Really Count

As the far right rises across Europe, mainstream parties, seeing an existential threat to liberal democracy, have searched for ways to contain its influence. The solution that major European powers like France and Germany have settled on — and that will be a component of any solution to Ms. Merkel’s current dilemma — is a so-called cordon sanitaire against the far right.

The term, which roughly translated means “quarantine” in French, means sealing off the far right from any power or influence, no matter how many votes it wins. Mainstream parties will not allow the far right into political coalitions or work with it on joint legislation. In Germany’s case, that means an absolute refusal to allow the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, into any governing coalition. The party recently won seats in Germany’s national legislature for the first time.

In the short term, such policies have effectively limited the influence of both longstanding far-right parties like the National Front in France and insurgent upstarts like the AfD. To the many politicians and citizens who fear what might happen if the far right were to exercise real power, that feels like an important victory.

But in the longer term, it turns out to have unintended side effects, making the underlying problems worse — with potentially serious consequences for democracy.

David Art, a professor at Tufts University who studies the European far right, said the mismatch between the votes the far right receives and the influence it wields was one of the “greatest untold stories” of far-right politics.

Policies devised to lock the far right out of power mean far-right voters “have gotten extremely little bang for their buck,” Professor Art said. “You have somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of the European electorate casting its votes for parties that are credibly shut out.”

And shutting a large populist party out of power for years has consequences for the political system itself, not just for that party and its voters.

As the far right’s share of the vote grows, that increases pressure on mainstream parties to cooperate with each other to present a united front and contain the threat. This can mean forming a grand coalition, in which the two largest parties join together despite their political differences.

The result, Professor Art said, is that mainstream politics can start to look like an elite cartel, in which establishment parties must maintain consensus to govern, and so are limited to an increasingly narrow lane of policy options regardless of what voters demand or issues require.

 

Les systèmes électoraux: Que d’erreurs avant de comprendre?

Qu’elle qu’en soient les raisons il y a des mots que l’on répète ici et là avec l’assurance que nul n’osera s’y opposer. Cela a du bien et du mal car sous ces mots magiques se cachent des techniques certes bienveillantes mais parfois sournoises.

En premier lieu: dans une élection, un ensemble de la population doit pouvoir s’exprimer. Le non vote doit se limiter à l’âge. L’enfant a d’autres soucis. La femme  et l’homme, quelque soit la formation et l’activité, peuvent avoir des idées sur la politique. Qui peut se présenter en juge de la volonté du peuple?

Tout comme la maison que l’on va bâtir, notre démocratie doit résister au temps. Or le temps est variable. L’on ne peut comparer hier et aujourd’hui sans en tirer des leçons. Le bon exemple doit être compréhensible par tous. Il ne doit surtout pas être compliqué. Nous reviendrons sur ce point car il nous faut connaitre ce que nous pouvons voir autour de nous dans le passé, le présent, et s’en servir pour penser l’avenir.

Il est intéressant de commencer par des exemples de démocraties évoluées. On entend dire souvent que l’élection de Hitler en 1932 est due au fait que la France a été plutôt dure envers l’Allemagne après sa victoire en 1918. Si cela était vrai, Hitler aurait gagné les élections législatives de 1920  où en s’unissant avec deux autres partis de droite le total obtenus n’a été que de de 6% des suffrages. Le Parti Nazi aurait été alors la meilleure structure d’accueil pour le vote contre le drame d’avoir perdu la guerre.

Lors des élections présidentielles de 1932 , Hitler s’est présenté  contre le Président Hindenburg, et aillant perdu de peu,  le président a considéré devoir nommer Hitler Chancelier à la tête d’un gouvernement mixte issu des élections législatives qui ont suivi.  D’ailleurs quand Hitler est devenu Chancelier, il venait rendre compte de son travail   et restait à déjeuner ce qui compliquait les habitues de la maison car Hitler étant vegetarian on a du s’habituer à manger du fromage.

Comme toute nouvelle organisation électorale les structures d’influence électorale apportent leur soutien, Eglise Catholique, au Parti du Centre et le syndicalisme ouvrier au Parti Socialiste.

Malgré cela, les Allemands trouvent de grandes difficultés à former des gouvernements. Ce qui est un grand dommage, car l’économie était en avance sur ses voisins. Les Etats-Unis d’Amérique s’en aperçoivent et les dollars s’investissent en Allemagne et l’extrême droite, le Parti Nazi n’obtient que 2,6% des suffrages avant la crise de Wall Street de 1929, qui frappa fort l’Allemagne. Mais sa grande faiblesse était la chute du gouvernement  composé de cinq partis qui en cas de crise, quelque soit le pays, ont du mal à s’entendre sur ce que le pays vit.

L’Allemagne, un grand Etat, se trouva pendant deux ans avec un gouvernement très minoritaire  soutenu (ainsi que le constitution lui permettait) par le Président de la République Hindenburg.

La suite immédiate, la crise de 1929. L’Allemagne avait une assurance chômage depuis 1927 qui n’était pas suffisante au moment ou la cris était au plus fort.

La leçon à retenir est que la proportionnelle devrait disparaître. Nous le disons depuis 1990.

Sautons le temps et revenons au présent. L’auteur Dieter Nohlen et les socialistes ont eu peur que la liste CDU-ICSU  soit éternellement au pouvoir. Il n’était plus question de proportionnelle, alors un système fut mis en place accordant deux votes par citoyen.

Nous constatons que les élus des 299 circonscriptions uninominales sont définitivement élus. Nous constatons que le nombre d’élus sur les listes proportionnelles n’est pas fonction des suffrages obtenus par les partis sur la partie à la proportionnelle (deuxième voix), mais est inversement proportionnel au nombre de sièges obtenus au scrutin majoritaire uninominal (1re voix). Plus un parti obtiendra de sièges majoritaires, moins il aura de sièges proportionnels.

Résultat : le scrutin proportionnel ne sert qu’à réduire ou éliminer l’accentuation en sièges du parti, ou des partis qui obtiennent le plus grand nombre de sièges majoritaires.

L’électorat et les hommes politiques ont bien compris l’importance de ces deux suffrages, et leur attitude diffère quand ils considèrent la première voix uninominale par rapport à la deuxième voix proportionnelle. Les petits partis ont compris   bien avantage.

Le système allemand n’a pas les qualités requises pour une gouvernance stable et de longue durée. Il  peut mener à des solutions qui n’ont jusqu’à maintenant  pas fonctionné.  Il pourrait provoquer  une impossibilité de former un gouvernement pendant de longues périodes.

La simple proportionnelle appliqué en Belgique pourrait aussi avoir de graves répercussions nationales.  En pleine crise de l’Euro la Belgique  est 18 mois sans gouvernement. Un gouvernement est formé en raison de la peur que l’agence de notation Moodys abaisse sa note. Ce mauvais fonctionnement des institutions aura d’autres répercussions. Les flamands ont déjà un parti séparatiste.

Y-a-t-il un effet de l’Internet lors d’une élection?

Voilà des extraits d’un texte du journal conservateur britannique The Times où deux publicistes se posent des questions. Quel est le rôle d’Internet ?  Ils n’en savent pas trop rien et cherchent  sans trouver le moyen d’aller plus loin. Bernard Owen

Is Vladimir Putin meddling in British politics?

Hugo Rifkind

November 9 2017, 12:01am, The Times

… »Thousands of people, working in buildings, pushing out fake news. Which is why we have to recognise that this is one of the genuine threats to our democracy and our way of life.”

… »Start worrying about this and your worries take you into confusing places. Those deleted 13,000 Twitter bots, for example, were fake people, but they weren’t necessarily spreading fake news. Does that matter? The day before I speak to Collins, the Electoral Commission announces an inquiry into the Brexit campaigner Arron Banks, and where exactly he found the £2.3 million he donated to various branches of the Leave campaign. »

…éthe former Leave.EU director of communications Andy Wigmore have bragged about their use of data, artificial intelligence and even bots to influence voters in the referendum, targeting them with partisan messaging. “Partisan”, of course, is not the same as “fake”. Or is it?

“It depends on the messaging,” Collins says. “I think within the spirit of a fake-news campaign, if people are spreading lies, disinformation, using social-media platforms for clearly electorally motivated reasons, then that is something which is of interest to our inquiry. But there’s nothing wrong with a political campaign saying we’re going to use all the legitimate advanced technologies we can find to target voters in a cost-effective way.”

… »Collins agrees that this raises “interesting ethical issues”, but is adamant that it is quite distinct from fake news. ……while nobody could credibly suggest that 17.4 million Leave voters were swayed by Facebook adverts, it is also hardly conspiratorial to suggest that advertising does have an effect on swing voters. Otherwise, why would any campaign bother? »

…“The next question,” he says, “is do we believe that technology is being used to propagate fake news? And if we do believe that is going on, who is doing it and why are they doing it?” And after that we need to understand whether it made any difference. “What we need to do,” he says, “is take all that from the realm of conspiracy theory and say, ‘Well, how true is it? At the moment there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that suggests people were working together in that way. Is that just coincidental?’ ”

These are the questions Collins is hoping that Facebook, Twitter and others will answer. In December the committee is to go to Washington to hold an evidence session in the British embassy with various tech giants. I’m interested in knowing how co-operative Collins expects them to be, what with his American counterpart’s experience having been, just occasionally, a little like drawing blood from a stone.

… »One obvious candidate would be RT, or Russia Today, the Russian-state broadcaster, which has often been accused of amplifying messages of disinformation with its western-focused, English-language broadcasting. Lately, the network has been advertising on the London Underground, with posters brazenly trolling those concerned about Russian-backed fake news. “Missed the train? Lost a vote?” said one, recently. “Blame it on us!” Might the committee ask them to give evidence, too?

“We could do,” says Collins, reminding me about Ofcom rulings that have criticised RT.com for breaching broadcasting codes on impartiality. For him, RT and its sister organisation Sputnik are quite clearly “news agencies backed by foreign governments with a highly partisan view of the world”.

Collins is conscious, though, that action against them could have consequences that Russia wouldn’t mind at all. “What if the Russian government turned around and said, ‘Well, we’re going to ban the BBC’?” he says. “Or close down Facebook because people use it there to distribute western media? Perhaps Russia would actually welcome that because it’s to their benefit to restrict the debate in their own country. So we really need to have our eyes open to what the potential consequences of what we are doing are.”

Looking at the precedent of America, the greatest of those consequences could be at home. For me, if I am honest, it is bizarre and a little alarming that an issue so vital to our functioning democracy is the preserve of a single parliamentary committee, albeit with a small amount of tangential help, very recently, from the Electoral Commission. Collins says he has discussed the inquiry with Amber Rudd, the home secretary, but says mainly that the government, “is letting us get on with it”.

Given its importance, given its potential scale, and given how much of it depends, for now, on the wholly optional co-operation of the tech giants, I do wonder if that’s really good enough. Collins is impressive and focused and he definitely knows his stuff. Maybe, all the same, he could use a little help. »

Les problèmes juridiques potentiels de Hillary pendant les primaires.

Quoique qu’on en dise le monde n’est pas parfait. Voyons ailleurs. L’article qui suit concerne les déboires politico/juridiques de Hillary Clinton lors des primaires démocrates.

Finalement, il était plutôt une question d’acharnement politique sans base juridique et donc le FBI n’a pas trouvé assez de des preuves pour qu’un procureur fédéral puisse inculper Hillary.

Au Congrès, le Parti Républicain s’était véritablement acharné sur Hillary mais qui a eu le dernier mot? Les électeurs.

Ci-dessous un texte sur ce qu’on a appelé l’ « Emailgate ».

Bernard Owen

 Clinton Probably Won’t Be Indicted, But  Here Are The ‘What If’ Scenarios

by Elura Nanos | 12:41 pm, June 1st, 2016

I have long said that Emailgate is one of the most boring, least effectual “scandals” ever. That’s not to say that Secretary Clinton handled her classified information properly, or even that she complied with the law. But on the scale of Dolores Landingham to Bernie Madoff, I feel like the email thing is much closer to the “I know it’s technically a violation of the law, but who really cares” end of the spectrum. Private servers aside, Clinton is still undeniably qualified, skilled, and smart enough to be an effective president. She’d still support an excellent legislative agenda, appoint the right Supreme Court justices, and favorably represent our country on the world stage. And if she becomes the Democratic nominee, there’s no question that I’d vote for her over Donald Trump. But this email thing just isn’t going away. So, in the interest of keeping our collective heads out of the sand, it’s a good idea to look ahead and plan for the worst. If Clinton were to be indicted, the impact on the 2016 presidential election would depend largely on when such an indictment were handed down.

The four possibilities are:

Before the primaries end.  If Clinton were to be indicted before the end of primary season, we’d likely see her engage in a game of political chicken. Because an indictment (and frankly, even a conviction) wouldn’t automaticallydisqualify her from continuing to seek election, Clinton would probably stay in the race until the consequences of any criminal charges became clearer. If she felt that a looming prosecution necessitated her withdrawal from the race, Clinton could take herself off the primary ballot; this would allow her delegates the freedom to support a candidate of their choosing. Bernie Sanders would likely remain on the primary ballots for the states yet to conduct their primaries, and he would try to persuade as many former Hillary delegates to support him. Once everyone arrived at the Democratic National Convention (DNC), though, other candidates would join the fray and delegates would scatter in every direction.

After the primaries end, but before the convention. If the Democratic party were to arrive at the DNC in the unprecedented position of having enough pledged delegates to nominate Hillary Clinton, but with no Hillary Clinton available for them to nominate, the convention would become “brokered.” Cue Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Cuomo, Joe Biden, and John Kerry. President Obama would probably issue some sort of call-to-action on behalf of the Democratic Party, and after much frenzy and fanfare, we’d get a new Democratic nominee. That person, by virtue purely of the fact that he or she is neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump, would probably emerge as a quick crowd favorite, become the next president, and pardon Hillary Clinton before even entering the Oval Office.

After the convention, but before the election.  If Clinton were to become the Democratic nominee only then to find that an indictment threatened her short road to the White House, the outcome would be largely the same as it would be in the above scenario. She would likely drop out of the race, which would cause an immediate vacancy on the Democratic ticket. The difference in this scenario, though, would be that after the Convention, Clinton would have already declared a running mate. That person might slip effortlessly into Clinton’s shoes – or might face some sort of compressed convention-type process.  Of course, there’s also the possibility that the Secretary would boldly test the loyalty of her supporters and continue her run; such a move would be risky, but given recent polling, still might work to elect the next President Clinton.

After the election.  If Clinton were to dazzle enough voters (conversely, if Trump were to sicken enough voters) to be elected, and thenface a presidential-term indictment, she will likely ride the same wave her husband did. Hillary Clinton would take office, defend any indictment, and deal with the resulting fallout. That fallout would almost surely mean impeachment (although, not necessarily conviction), as it did for Bill Clinton. However, given that neither an indictment nor an impeachment guarantees any particular outcome, it’s entirely possible that a Madam President Clinton could continue on as the 45thPresident of the United States, leaving Emailgate as a historical footnote.

From my reading of the relevant statutes, an indictment against Secretary Clinton is possible, but hasn’t yet reached the level of “likely.” In any criminal prosecution, the misdeed is only half the equation; proof of the required mental state or standard of care is necessary for any conviction. In a case like this one, it wouldn’t be difficult to imagine a scenario in which the evidence is sufficient to show that Clinton did something wrong, but insufficient to prove that she did it purposely, knowingly, or recklessly.

Furthermore, while there’s no direct precedent governing the scenario of a FLOTUS-turned-Secretary being prosecuted for mishandling state secrets, presidents have gone on to serve after brushing with the law.   President George W. Bush had been arrested in 1976 for drunk driving – a secret which failed to derail his presidency even when it was sprung on the country right before Election Day. And of course, President Clinton’s now-famous perjury charges may have tarnished his public image, but failed to truly impact his presidency.

The Constitution is clear about the necessary qualifications for this position: the president must be above the age of thirty-five, have lived in the United States for at least fourteen years, and be a “natural-born citizen.” Placing further restrictions on the office cannot be done without passing a Constitutional amendment — a change I’ve never heard anyone even suggest.  It’s fascinating that the drafters of our Constitution put more emphasis on a person’s birthplace than on that person’s actions — but then, they were politicians too.  Maybe their choice not to require our nation’s leader to be strictly law-abiding was not an oversight, but rather, a deliberate omission by those who understood the use of criminal prosecution as a political tool.

De l’amateurisme dans les sondages

Voici quelques extraits des derniers sondages IFOP.

SONDAGE. La rechute d’Emmanuel Macron

22h55 , le 21 octobre 2017, modifié à 12h34 , le 23 octobre 2017

BAROMETRE IFOP-JDD – Le président de la République perd trois points dans notre sondage mensuel. 32% des Français sont désormais satisfaits de son action.

L’information est une excellente chose encore faut-il, que tout ce que l’on trouve dans le monde, les idées, les pensées et les décisions soient clairement exposées. (En écrivant j’écoute Wanda Landowska jouant au clavecin les Variations Goldberg de Bach. Cette musique ne peut qu’accentuer les maladresses des précédents sondages) bBernard Owen

 

Balance of power?

Eliane Houlette, procureur affaire Fillon

We have been around and about the world to talk about elections. We have met interesting people, hard-working people, living in lovely but unstable countries where democracy is a magic word.

When we look back at those exchanges, we have doubts about their value.  As far as our teaching  goes, what can be said about these  democratic models that are sold and sometimes imposed, ?

Take the French political model as an example.  A prosecutor interferes with a national election. This  new prosecutor was a reaction to the Cahuzac affair during Hollande’s presidency.

The apparent reasons for the  interference in  the 2017 elections lie in the fact that the law concerning the hiring of family by those who hold elected office at the national level was poorly drafted and vague.  But we are a civilized nation! So that should not be. And yet it was.  As a result, voter reaction was expressed by a historically low turnout.

All my life I have taught about democracy.  What will happen now?  Students that see me come in through the door, will look at each other with a grin. How did this happen?  A lot of work still need to be done.

Laws that are voted as a result of a scandal are notoriously flawed. This hastily invented public prosecutor’s office on financial affairs had nefarious consequences on French democracy.  So you see, democracy is not only a question of holding elections.

We have to thank John Williams for his huge amount of information.

Willuam Dow

François Fillon, ex Prime Minister